M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru

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M. N. Roy : New Humanism, pp. 10-11.

  • Quoted from Dr. V. P. Varma's Indian Political Thought, p. 654.

    Rousseau's theory of direct democracy was, in a sense, accepted by Roy because the latter's ideal was to foster the direct participa­tion of the entire adult population through the people's committees. The realization of this scheme, in fact, depends on the efforts of the morally and intellectually advanced sections of the population. They will be "united in a political party and their sole task is to promote the rational and moral well-being of the people. This party of spiritually free men and women would not seek to capture power. They are aware of the radical antithesis between individual autonomy and concentration of power. The principal aim of this spiritual party, if such a word can be used, will be to help the organization of

    1. M. xSf. ROV

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    1. people's committees which will be the principal foci of democratic power."53

    2. Further, Roy was not only against monopoly capitalism wnn its proliferating combines, trusts and cartels, but he was also opposed to liberal capitalism with its doctrine of laissez faire and state capitalism with emphasis on state enterprise. All these systems are dangerous to real democracy. Hence, the only system left, in Roy's opinion, is some form of economy based on 'widespread decentralization and a spirit and practice of co-operation."11 It is a system of 'co-operative economy' which Mahatma Gandhi worked upon more thoroughly and consistently.

      1. Quoted from Dr. V. P. Varma's Indian Political Thought, p. 655.

      2. M. N. Roy : National Government or People's Government, p. 104.

      M. N. Roy rejected formal parliamentary democracy ana com­petitive economy on the one hand, and political dictatorship and economic regimentation on the other. In their place, he offered a concrete programme of the construction of a cosmopolitan co-opera­tive commonwealth, which attaches supreme importance to the freedom and initiative of the individual. Although he failed to work on a consistent system of thought either in the field of political philosophy or in that of economic thought, he laboured to synthesize different elements of thought. He endeavoured to combine in his politico-philosophical thesis the elements of rationalistic renaissance, 'physical realistic' cosmology, humanistic ethics and individualistic federalism. And he deserves surely a place not only among the recent Indian writers on political thought, but also among the great European political thinkers of the twentieth century. He was perhaps one of the most learned and prolific writers on the political and philosophical subjects in the modern age.

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    4. JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (I 889-1 964)

    5. Nehru : Birth and Circumstances

    6. Nature and circumstance were both kind to Jawaharlal Nehru. He was born into the Kashmiri Brahmin community, the most aristocratic sub-caste in the Hindu social system. His father was a distinguished and wealthy barrister, modern, urbane, highly culti­vated and lavishly generous. As an only son—and the only child for eleven years—Jawaharlal was the focus of concentrated affection. He had, too, the leisure and learning of an English aristocrat in the secure atmosphere of the Edwardian Age—private tutors, Harrow, Cambridge and the Inner Temple. When he was drawn to the political arena soon after his return to India, his path was eased by the guidance and support of his father and Gandhi. Prime Minister Nehru recalled this head-start in a modest portrait of his past seen forty years later. "My growth to public prominence, you know, was not by sharp stages. It was, rather, a steady development over a long period of time. And if I may say so," he added dryly, "I began at a fairly high level."11

    7. The benefits of aristocratic background and higher Western edu­cation were not without price. Security was accompanied by an overwhelming paternalism which hindered his growth to self-reliance. This tendency to depend on a strong, decisive and older man be­came a marked feature of Nehru's character in his adult life. Even before the death of his father in 1931 he had already transferred this dependence in large measure to Gandhi, who served as guide, counsellor and father-confessor in matters both political and personal. After Gandhi's death the habit continued but in a less pronounced manner. Indeed, it was not until his early sixties that Nehru emerg­ed mostly from the shadow of the two men who exercised more influence on his character than all other persons.

    8. The legacy of that habit was still visible in some degree or form. Despite his power and prestige, Nehru continued to exhibit a lack of confidence about the right course of action. Perhaps, the most notable exampie in recent years was his weak handling of the vexed issue of States Reorganization. In part, his vacillations were due to the intellectual in him who saw all points of view, and therefore


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    1. hesitated to act boldly lest he should destroy that element of 'good' which he thought all viewpoints possessed. But in large measure this indecisiveness must be traced to the circumstances in which his character was moulded.

    2. Other elements in his background helped shape the character of Nehru. Among Indian nationalist leaders of his generation, he alone was a true aristocrat. Nehru detested the waste and iniquities of the caste system, but he could not escape the indelible mark of his upper caste origin. He regained a Brahmin with everything that his status connoted, although his Western education led him to react to the traditional idea of any caste superiority.

    3. Combination of the East and the West

    4. We see in Nehru's thinking a strange combination of the ideas of the East and of the West. His education in England during the most impressionable years of his life left an indelible mark on his personality. He was out of date with old Indian beliefs and super­stitions while he extolled the ideals that made India great in the past and have helped her survive the onslaughts of time, keeping her spirit radiant and serene. "Essentially I am interested in this world," said Nehru, "in this life, not in some other world, or a future life. Whether there is such a thing as a soul, or whether there is survival after death or not, I do not know and, important as these questions are, they do not trouble me in the least."' Though a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he had a hazy notion about religion, and he was not fascinated by the idea of asceticism or renunciation. "I have no liking or attraction for the ascetic view of life," he frankly confessed, "the negation of life, the terrified abstention from its joys and sensations."12 He preferred the active virtues, he said, to the passive ones. And what remarkable activity, mental and physical, marked his life if we remember that he com­pleted the psalmist's span of three score and fourteen years on November 14, 1963.

      1. 2 The Discovery of India, pp. 15-18.

      1. 4 Ibtdjp. 449.

      Nehru's education in England accounted for his realistic approach to the problems of life and his scientific attitude of mind. He would fight for his country's freedom against the British rulers in India, but he could not forget what he owed to his English train­ing or ways of thought. "Personally I owe too much to England in m.v mental make-up ever to feel wholly alien to her," he frankly avowed, "and do what 1 will, I cannot get rid of the habits of mind, and the standards and the ways of judging other countries as well as life generally, whicn I acquired at school and college in England."1 It is this again that made him realize how much English language

    1. and literature have meant to India and her people, though he was a passionate believer in the resurgence of the Indian languages and in their replacing English in the near future. Nor did he forget the deep debt of gratitude that Mahatma Gandhi and Aurobindo Ghosh, Rabindranath Tagore and Radhakrishnan owe to English or that they drew their inspiration as much from teachings of Burke and Mill, Ruskin and Tolstoy, Lincoln and Thoreau as from the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Bhagvad-Gita and the gospel of Buddha. He always impressed on his countrymen the need for a spirit of restraint in the solution of problems, both at home and abroad ; his success in this direction had enabled him to see that India continues to be a member of the Commonwealth.

    2. "Patriotism is no longer enough ; we want something higher, wider and nobler."13 A lover of his country, proud of her past, eagerly looking forward to an equally splendid future for her, he was no narrow nationalist as most politicians and patriots tend to become. To him the whole of humanity was one ; the denial of freedom to a people whether in Indonesia or in Israel, made him take up their cause with the same fervour with which he fought for India's freedom. "What are we interested in world affairs for ?" he asked. "We seek no domination over any country. We do not wish to interfere in the affairs of any country, domestic or other. Our main stake in world affairs is peace, to see that there is racial equality and that people who are still subjugated should be free. For the rest we do not desire to interfere in world affairs and we do not desire that other people should interfere in our affairs. If, however, there is interference, whether military, political, or economic, we shall resist it."8 His faith in man was equalled by his faith in the ability of every nation to make its own worthy contribution to the progress of mankind. "Faith in progress, in a cause, in ideals, in human goodness and in human destiny," he asked, "are they not nearly allied to a faith in providence ?"' Intensely proud as he was of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, perhaps, felt it a greater honour to be called a 'Citizen of the World', for his ideal was One World, his fight was for human freedom everywhere, his deification was of the dignity of man.

    3. Belief in the Welfare of Mankind

      1. 5 Ibid., p. 414.

      1. 7 Autobiography, p. 477.

      It was his identification with the interests and welfare of man­kind in general that made Jawaharlal Nehru hate the idea of India becoming insular, now that she is independent. He wanted her to keep her doors open so that the winds of knowledge and culture might be wafted across the seas to her shores to enrich her children,


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    1. even as in past centuries men from Greece and Rome came to her temples of learning and took back with them rare treasures of illumination for mind and soul. "In every matter, be it education, science or culture or anything," he declared, "I dislike nothing so much as the narrowly nationalistic approach which makes us think that we have attained the summit of wisdom and that we need not learn anything—I am all for opening out our minds to every kind of knowledge or information that can be obtained."14

    2. A man of wide vision and broad outlook, Nehru did not subs­cribe to the doctrine that the end justifies the means. He writes that a worthy end should have worthy means leading up to it. That seems not only a good ethical doctrine, but sound practical politics, for the means that are not good often defeat the end in view and raise new problems and difficulties. And then it appears so un­becoming, so degrading to the self-respect of an individual or a nation to submit to such means, to go through the mire. Again and again Nehru told his audiences, both in India and abroad, that this principle of right means leading up to right results should be adopted in international relations also.

    3. Nehru was a most aflfeble and charming man. Indeed, he had the gift, rare among statesmen, of inspiring genuine regard and affec­tion from persons ranging over the whole spectrum of political opinion at home and abroad. But an inner quality of aloofness prevented him from reciprocating, even with colleagues of long standing. His early life in Allahabad strengthened a natural reticence, and so 'did a British public-school education. Nehru himself underlined this element in his make-up in a letter to an Indian friend : "Yes, we did not discuss personal matters. You ought to know me sufficiently to realize that I never discuss them unless the other party takes the initiative. I would not do so even with Kamala (his wife) or Indu (his daughter). Such has been my training." So it continued down to the last day of his life.

    4. This quality should not be construed as mistrust or indifference to the welfare of others. On the contrary, Nehru was sustained in trial by a strong faitl in man. Moreover, colleagues, friends and subordinates spoke in glowing terms of his kindness and consideration, in matters vital and trivial. There is the story of a salary increase given to his servants during the Second World War, because their responsibilities increased when he went to prison ! According to one official who worked closely with him for some years, "Nehru is not a demonstrative person ; in that respect he is very much the English public school type. He will never tell you that he appreciates your work, but he shows his affection and kind-heartedness in indirect ways." Though born and bred in luxury and wealth, Nehru had a genuine love and sympathy for the poor. He was deeply interested in

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    2. great political thinkers

    1. the common people, their ways of life, their problems and pursuits, and fully dedicated himself to the uplift of the underdog.

    2. Nehru's Faith in Democracy

    3. As he had a strong faith in man's wisdom and his equality in almost all the spheres of human life, Nehru considered democracy to be the best government. He always found himself safe in a demo­cracy. In fact, the Indian experiment in constitutional democracy owes more to Nehru than to anyone else or to any combination of factors. Aware of his autocratic tendencies, he had striven success­fully to curb them lest India should revert to the condition of bene­volent despotism. Few men with these talents could have resisted the inducements to exercise dictatorial powers. Some frustrated Indians regretted his reluctance to do so. Some Westerners would do well to appreciate this aspect of Nehru's leadership.

    4. Always a passionate faith in democracy coloured his thoughts and ideas. To him, like Mill, democracy in practice does not mean the stifling of the voice of minority by a majority through its sheer voting strength. According to him, democracy means tolerance not merely of those who agree with us, but of those who do not agree with us. He believed that the method of democracy was discussion, argument, persuasion and ultimate decision and acceptance of that decision even though it might go against our grain. "Otherwise, the bigger lathi or the bigger bomb prevails and that is not the demo­cratic method. The problem is the same whether atomic bombs are involved or street demonstrations."' He did not object to demonstra­tions, but he had no liking for violence, resulting from them. In fact, parliamentary democracy demands many virtues. It demands, of course, ability and devotion to work. But it also demands a large measure of co-operation, of self-discipline, of restraint. "Parliamen­tary democracy," he told his countrymen, "is not something which can be created in a country by some magic wand—Parliamentary democracy naturally involves peaceful method of action, peaceful acceptance of decisions taken, and attempts to change them through peaceful ways again."15

      1. 9 Speeches (1953-57), p. 178.

      Nehru was quite confident of the fact that democracy cannot work successfully, and achieve its aims or ideals without the goodwill of the people and their co-operation. Like Thomas Jefferson, he also accepted the truth that democracy cannot go against the people. Even an autocratic government has to have a measure of goodwill. It cannot function without it. In the ultimate analysis, a government functions because of certain sanctions which it has and which are represented by its army or police force. If the government is in line with the thought of a majority of the people, it is a democratic govern-


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    1. ment and only a very small minority of the people will feel its pressure. Now, if an individual refuses to be afraid of these sanctions, what is government to do about it ? He may be sent to jail and beaten there. He may be, even, shot down. But he is not afraid of all these things ; he is even ready to face the death. In such case, the government will have to face a crisis ; that is, a govern­ment, in spite of its great power, cannot really conquer an individual. That is failure on the part of the government. Nehru was fully conscious of this fact, and he, therefore, accepted that "a govern­ment, which is essentially based upon the sanctions it has, comes up against something—the spirit of man which refuses to be afraid of those sanctions."

    2. It is a truism of history that democracy is the best form of government, because it preserves the highest human values. That is why, India has chosen democracy. And Nehru was so hopeful about its success in India that he remarked, "We will resist the imposition of any other concept here or any other practice." But he quite reasonably thought, as we all think, that war puts an end to the very values that democracy cherishes. It was his firm belief that "democracy, in fact, is a casualty of war in the world today. It does not mean to function properly any more. That has been the tragedy of the last two World wars and something infinitely worse is likely to happen if there is another war."16

    3. The true measure of Nehru's humanism, his tolerance and his liberalism, is perhaps best revealed in the following extemporaneous reflections on 'what constitute a good society and good life ?'

    4. "Broadly speaking, apart from the material things that are necessary, obviously, a certain individual growth in the society, not only the corporate social growth but the individual growth. For I do believe that ultimately it is the individual that counts. I cannot say that I believe in it because I have no proof, but the idea appeals to me without belief, the old Hindu idea that if there is any divine essence in the world every individual possessed a bit of it—and he can develop it. Therefore, no individual is trivial. Every indivi­dual has an importance and he should be given full opportunities to develop material opportunities naturally, food, clothing, education, housing, health etc. They should be common to everybody. The difficulty comes in about the moral aspect, the moral aspect of religion. I am not at all concerned about the hereafter. It does not worry me ; I do not see why it should worry people whether the next world is or is not there. And I am not prepared to deny many things. I just do not know ! The most correct attitude, if I may say so, is that of the Buddha who did not deny it and did not assert it." He further remarked that "this life is enough for me and when you do not know about something why talk about it. I do believe in

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    1. certain standards. They are important in any individual and in any social group. And if they fade away, I think that all the material advancement you may have, will lead to nothing worthwhile. How to maintain them I do not know ; I mean to say, there is the reli­gious approach. It seems to me rather a narrow approach with its forms and all kinds of ceremonials. And yet, I am not prepared to deny that approach. If a person feels comforted by worshipping a stone why should I come in his way ? If it raises him above his-normal level it is good for him. Whatever raises a person above his normal level is good, however he approaches that, provided he does not sit on somebody and force him to do it. That is a different matter. So while I attach very considerable value to moral and spiritual standards, apart from religion as such, I do not quite know how one maintains them ic modern life. It is a problem."18

    2. A Slant for Western Liberalism

    3. The principal strand in his thinking was Western liberalism which expressed itself in his firm devotion to political democracy and individual freedom. The evidence is overwhelming. Nehru was a genuine democrat, as revealed by his espousal of the parliamentary system, free elections, a free press, freedom of speech, "of religion and assembly, political parties, and constitutional safeguards for individual rights. Socialism was also rooted in his thought, providing the stimulus to planning and the stress on social and economic equality. Evidence for his continued dedication to this idea is also abundant— the Five Year Plans, the 'socialist pattern of society', the efforts to build up the public sector of the economy. Gandhism provides the basic approach to social, economic and political change, i. e., the method of morally sanctioned non-violent change—though many find his attitude to Kashmir a striking deviation from this attitude. And nationalism is the vital force behind the assertion of India's right to recognition, as well as the right to independence, for all colonial peoples. Indian foreign policy since 1947 demonstrates this beyond doubt. In this significant practical sense, many strands in his social and political philosophy had been reconciled ; each provided the stimulus to, and the rationale for, decisions in various aspects of public affairs.

      1. 12 To Michael Brecher in New Delhi on 13th June, 1956 (Quoted from M. Brecher's book, Nehru : A Political Biography, Oxford Univ. Press, 1956).

      At different times and in different spheres one or another will predominate in accordance with the need of India during its period of transition. But they remain the broad guides to policy. Thus, for example, it is true that Nehru did not press forward with socialism at the same speed as he pledged before independence. But this does not detract from his belief that India must go the way of socialism, in some form or other. Flexible on tactics, he was rigid on goals :


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    1. socialism of the democratic type, achieved by planning, but within the framework of political democracy ; secularism or, more correctly, equal rights for all communities in the Indian family ; raising stan­dards of living for the masses, to be achieved by peaceful change, not revolution ; and the preservation of individual rights. These goals may, indeed, be termed Nehru's idees fixes. In the case of socialism his doctrinaire attitude of the 'thirties had become a pragmatic adjustment to circumstances and problems posed by events of the past dozen years. With age, too, he had become more cautious and conservative. Whereas before 1947 he was in favour of nationaliza­tion on a broad scale, he after that came to the conclusion that top priority must be given to production and that in this situation private enterprise has a valuable function to perform. Hence he was willing to tolerate, even encourage, private industry. The egalitarian strain was still there, but the principal object was to increase the total wealth to be distributed rather than to distribute poverty. Similarly his penchant for radical and rapid social reform was moderated by a variety of pressures since Independence. There was danger, of course, that tactical retreats might lead to strategic defeats. But the pillars of his thought remained unimpaired.

    2. Nehru's Socialism

    3. A love for the ideals of socialism and a longing to build the India of his dreams on a socialistic basis ran like a thread throughout his life and thought. Socialism appealed to him 'as a philosophy of life' and was, in his estimation, 'the only key to the solution of the world's problems and of Indid's problems.' He stated that he was drawn towards socialism from his younger days. "I have been and am a convinced socialist and believer in democracy," he declared, "and have at the same time accepted whole-heartedly the peaceful technique of non-violent action which Gandhiji has practised so successfully during the past twenty years."11 A classless society, according to him, should be our ultimate aim wherein all shall have equality of opportunity and economic justice, "a society organized on a planned basis for the raising of mankind to higher material and cultural ievels, to cultivation of spiritual values, of co-operation, unselfishness, the spirit of service, the desire to do right, goodwill and love—ultimately a world order. Everything that comes in the way will have to be removed, gently if possible, forcibly if neces­sary."17

      1. 13 The Unity of India, p. 134.

      Ideologically, Nehru's socialism was given concrete form at the Avadi Session of the Congres., in January, 1955. The road to social­ism was charted, though what form it would take no one bothered to define : ". . . .planning should take place with a view to the

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    1. establishment of a socialistic pattern of society, where the principal means of production are under social ownership or control, produc­tion is progressively speeded up and there is equitable distribution of the national wealth." With respect to economic policy, "the public sector must play a progressively greater part, more particularly in the establishment of basic industries." The state would have to initiate large-scale power and transport projects, have overall control of resources, maintain strategic controls, prevent the development of cartels and the like."

    2. Indian reaction to the Avadi Resolution was mixed. All agreed that it was a logical outgrowth of Nehru's speeches during the pre­ceding few months.. But as to the meaning of 'socialist pattern' there was a wide range of views. One newspaper noted that no one bothered to define it and 'even Pandit Nehru. . . .was brilliantly vague'. Some termed it realistic but not socialistic. One commen­tator remarked acidly that 'socialistic pattern' suited Nehru's 'all too flexible' approach, with its 'distaste for details and a penchant for soaring well above the earth, if not in the clouds.' Communists saw it merely as a catchy slogan. The newspaper founded by Nehru himself noted that while it might not mean socialism, 'it will help people to think socialism.'

      1. The text of the Avadi Resolution is to be found in Fisher, Margaret W., and Bondurant, Joan V., Indian Approaches to a Socialist Society, Appen­dix n.

      2. 'Special Correspondent' of The Hindu (Madras), 18th January, 1955.

      It was generally agreed at the time, and still is, that Nehru was the movtug force behind the Avadi Resolution. Yet Nehru himself declared a year later: "I might tell you I had very little to do with that Resolution. It was the new Congress President (Mr. Dhebar). I approved, of course, heartily, but it was the new Con­gress President who took the initiative in the matter." As for the timing of the move to a 'socialist pattern' there was much speculation. Some believed it to be politically inspired, an effort to inject the governing party with much-needed enthusiasm, particularly on the eve of .the crucial Andhra election where a powerful communist Party threatened the Congress. Others saw it as Nehru's attempt to infuse new life into a flagging economy, for the pace of progress was disappointing. Many were struck by the fact that the shift occurred almost immediately a'fter his China tour. Typical was the following comment: "Informed circles would consider it less than fair to suggest that the idea caught on after Mr. Nehru's visit to China. But they would however not seriously demur to the observation that the China trip may have served to stir up his ever-impatient soul with a view to reassessing whether the purpose and direction pursued by the Congress corresponded with the de­clared objectives."1.


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    1. Nehru himself demurred. In response to a question about the possible link between his China tour and the Avadi Resoultion, he said with some vehemence, "absolutely nothing to do with it." Further, "we had talked about socialism throughout (the struggle for independence) and as long as twenty-five years ago the Congress said that the chief industries should be owned and controlled by the state (the Karachi Resolution of 1931). After the coming of in­dependence it developed gradually and ultimately came out."

    2. Be that as it may, there can be no doubt that Nehru was deeply moved by what he saw in China. He was impressed by the energy and discipline of Chinese workers, in contrast to Indians, particularly under the direction of an efficient centralized government which gave China 'terrifying strength'. He admired the effective use of China's huge labour force in large-scale construction projects such as dams and hoped to emulate this in India—without the coercive mobilization of labour. He was comforted by the evidence that India was more economically advanced at present, but must have been disturbed by the fact that China's rate of progress was faster. Upon his return he commented critically on the lack of free speech in China, and extolled the virtues of democracy and parliamentary government" According to some who accompanied him, he felt proud of India's achievements after seeing the new China. Perhaps most important, he acquired added insight into the reality of Indo-Chinese rivalry, however friendly, for the ideologically uncommitted peoples of Asia. It may well be that subconsciously he was driven to the Left upon his return by the concern that China was winning this crucial contest. Ai this is not at all surprising partly because he was a convinced socialist from hi? young age and, as such, he had a penchant for the Left, and partly because he was interested in the rapid growth of Indian economy, and so he drew inspiration from every such country which he found engaged in making economic progress for raising the standard of her own people.

    3. Nehru found the solution of the world's problems and of India's Problems in socialism ; and when he used this word, he did not do so in a vague humanitarian way but in the scientific economic sense. For him, socialism was something even more than an economic doctrine. He wrote, "I see no way of ending the poverty, the vast Unemployment, the degradation and the subjection of the Indian People except through socialism."16 He considered socialism necessary ?ot only for India but for the entire world. Remarking upon the •nevitability of socialism Nehru stated : "Inevitably we are led to the °nly possible solution—the establishment of a socialist order, first within national boundaries, and eventually in the world as a whole,

    4. 1? For Nehru's comments on his return from China, see Fisher and Bondurant,'

    5. Indian Views of Stno-Indian Relations, pp. 107-09. J8 India and the World, pp. 82-83.

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    1. with a controlled production and distribution of wealth for the public good. How this is to be brought about is another matter, but it is clear that the good of a nation or of mankind must not be held up, because some people who profit by the existing order object to the change. If political or social institutions stand in the way of such a change, they have to be removed. To compromise with them at the cost of that desirable and practical ideal would be a gross betrayal. Such a change may partly be forced or expedited by world conditions, but it can hardly take place without the willing consent or acquiescence of the great majority of the people concerned. They have, therefore, to be converted and won over to it. Conspiratorial violence of a small group will not help. Naturally efforts must be made to win over even those who profit by the exist­ing system, but it is highly unlikely that any large percentage of them will be converted."'* He frankly confessed that he was a socialist and a republican, and was no believer in kings or princes or in the order which produced the modern kings of industry, who had greater power over the lives and fortunes of men than even the kings of the old, and whose methods as predatory as those of the old feudal aristocracy.

    2. Disbelief in Dogmatic Communism

      1. Autobiography, p. 523.

      2. To John Ounther, quoted in 'Have You Seen Jawaharta! ?' in Asia. February, 1939, p. 95.

      Nehru was a convinced socialist, but he was not a com­munist. The.record of word and deed is incontrovertible on this point. His earliest public statement on the subject is worth rescuing from obscurity. "Bolshevism and Fascism are the waves of the West," he told a Congress gathering in J 923. "They are really alike and represent different phases of insensate violence and intolerance. The choice for us is between Lenin and Mussolini on the one side, and Gandhi on the other." This initial hostility later gave way to a prolonged flirtation. He studied Marxist literature from 1929 to 1939, b 1 he never became intoxicated. This cardinal fact emerges clearly from his speeches and writings of that period, notably his Autobiography. Indeed, at the very height of his attraction to com­munism, in the mid-'thirties, he remained the sceptic, impressed by certain Soviet achievements, but repelled by their methods, influ­enced by the Marxist interpretation of history, but unalterably op­posed to its dogma, enamoured of communist ideals but distressed by communist practice. "I am not a communist," he remarked in 1938, "chiefly because I resist the communist tendency to treat communism as holy doctrine : I do not like being told what to think and do. I suppose I am too much of an individualist. . . .1 fee! also that too much violence is associated with communist methods. The ends cannot be separated from the means."*0


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    1. The fundamental dogma of communism, that human history is determined by the means of economic production (solely), was alien to Nehru's nature. He was very well aware of those non-material forces, such as love, art and patriotism (to name only a few), which decisively affect the behaviour of men and its objective historical results. He hardly ever spoke of material progress without consider­ing it by the inclusion of other elements. This being so, it seems odd to a good many observers that his public expressions about com­munism seldom or never went to the root of the matter. What he said, in one form or another, is that communism may have desirable ends in view, such as the abolition of poverty, the fully classless state, and so on, but that its means have involved so much violence, deceit, and all-round wickedness that it cannot achieve these purposes. It is the Gandhian identification of means and ends : no good end can be attained by evil means, and violence is evil.

    2. Belief in Gandhian Methods

    3. Nehru had deliberately chosen not to go beyond the Gandhian analysis for a number of reasons. First, Gandhi's language is native to India and is understood by everybody ; it has that ethical basis and religious colouration to which India is accustomed : it carries far more weight than any purely intellectual argument.

    4. Secondly, it must be admitted that Nehru's acquaintance with communist theory and dialectic was limited in spite of the fact that he spent nearly ten years in reading the communist literature. He himself admitted this fact. He read Marx when he was in prison. He was acquainted with Lenin's development of dialectical material­ism. But he had never really had time to explore that mass of argumentation which constituted the Russian Communist structure, and he bad made no attempt to do so. He did net engage in the argument a fond; he, at any rate, never had said that this was an erroneous theory of human society and history, that it did not fit the facts and that it could not permanently prevail. Even though his own instinct told him that economic materialism was an inadequate thesis for the human complex, he did not feel qualified to make such a declaration. It seemed to him pontifical, to say the least, and perhaps also wrong. He preferred the Socratic answer : "I do not know, but I know that I do not know."

    5. And thirdly, as everybody understands, India's two neighbours to the north are the most powerful of Communist States, and India's primary necessity is to keep the peace. The 'five principles of co­existence', to which Nehru had had recourse, represent the admis­sion of this fact. They are not the creation of naivete or ignorance, as so many bumptious editorialists in the United States have assum­ed, but they are a postulate of super-realism, which, very often indeed in human affairs, may bring about that condition which they postulate.

    1. 152


    1. As an Experimentalist and a Pragmatist

    2. Nehru was always open to corrections. He was an experimen­talist and a pragmatist, and he, therefore, disliked the doctrinaire rigi­dity. He committed mistakes in his judgment of things and events, but he also confessed them frankly and publicly. He seldom over-judged his opinions and bullied his rivals. It was that Nehru, the man, the human being who never, even for one moment, talked or acted like a communist or even like a person who has imbibed some shreds of communist theory. He had not a hint of the doctrinaire rigidity, the all-knowing and intolerant certainty, the ready-made sufficiency for all questions, which are the prime characteristics of a communist. In discussion he was above all humane, trying to find human reasons for human behaviour, and never judging too harshly where he thought a motive, rather than its result, could be respected. Communists and those influenced by communism, including a great many socialists of the leftward sections, never stop judging all men and all happenings by their own rule-of-thumb. Nehru was far too civilized, too acquainted with humanity, to imagine that a slide rule could ever serve such purposes.

    3. In the above context, when we take into account his attitude towards the Indian communists, we find that he severely criticized the Communist Party of India, although he had no objection to its peaceful functioning as a political party. In the autumn of 1945, he served on a special party committee which recommended the expulsion of ail communists from the Congress due to their 'betrayal of the nationalist movement' and their co-operation with the Government after the 'August Movement'. And since that time Nehru had been increasingly critical of the C.P.I. In the process he had made his position unmistakably clear on Marxism and Communism as well. "Far from being revolutionary, the communists are actually conser­vative," he declared in 1946. By 1950, he had gone much further. At a press conference soon after the outbreak of the Korean War, he said : ". . .huge monolithic states u-ider communist guidance (may) . . .answer an economic question, in certain countries but. . .at a tremendous cost. I do not like monolithic states, I do not like authoritarian states. . . .1 do not think that individual liberty, i.e., normally considered political liberty, does not exist in monolithic authoritarian countries." As for Marxism, "I am not interested in it. Why should I be ? I am interested in finding a way out—not in interpreting Marxism or taking others' views. There are people who believe that whatever is in a scripture must be true. But my mind. . . . . .is not made that way." Two years later he dissociated himself intellectually from Marxism : "I think Marx is out of date today. To talk about Marxism today, if I may say so, is reaction. I think communists with all their fire and fury are in some ways


    2. 153

    1. utterly reactionary in outlook."18 He had been saying this till his death.

    2. His most pungent criticisms were directed to Indian communists. In one of his most scathing attacks, towards the end of 1954, he declared : "They have no moorings in the land of their birth, but always look to outside countries for inspiration and guidance. They are of the opinion that internecine trouble, violence and bloodshed are the main things to be pursued." He ridiculed them for clinging to the outmoded ideas of the Marxist classics and for trying to apply them unchanged to India. He denounced them for maligning their count-v while abroad. And he noted, in public, that they had long oppr i d Indian foreign policy as a reflection of imperialism, but begat, to approve it when the Soviet world did so.19

    3. This charge of slavish dependence on Moscow was reiterated in the spring of 1958, when he assailed Indian communists for their attitude to Yugoslavia. Nor was world communism spared. Much had happened in recent years, he said. "Sometimes it is called liberalization, sometimes democratization, sometimes 'let a hundreld flowers bloom'. . . .Then the reverse process has taken place and a 1 the flowers became weeds to be pulled out."ia An even more scathfn indictment of communism was penned by Nehru in the autumn go 1958 : "Its contempt for what might be called the moral and spiritual side of life. . .deprives human behaviour of standards and values. Its unfortunate association with violence encourages a certain evil tendeney in human beings. .. .Its language is of violence, its thought is violent, and it seeks change by coercion and. indeed, by destruction and extermination."20

    4. Indeed, Nehru's attitude to Marxism, communism and the Indian Communist -Party could not have been otherwise, given his tempera­ment, values and philosophy of life. He was influenced by the power­ful anti-colonial themes of socialist theory, and was actually sensitive to the sufferings of the masses. But he had always been incapable of identifying himself wholeheartedly with a rigid body of doctrines. He was too much the nationalist to be a doctrinaire socialist ar"t too much the aristocrat to be dominated by a proletarian party.

      1. 23 New York Times, May 13, 1958.

      Where then shall we place him in the ideological spectrum ? He was a liberal and a democract, a socialist and an individualist. "I suppose I am temperamentally and by training an individualist, and intellectually a socialist," he wrote just before the war. "I hope that .socialism does not kill or suppress individuality; indeed I am attrar-

    1. 154

    2. great political thinkers

    1. ted to it because it will release innumerable individuals from economic and cultural bondage,"" Most of all, he was a humanist in the best tradition of East and West. His creed is best defined as democratic socialism and refined and humane materialism. Or a 'welfare state' of a socialist pattern, which he often called a democratic socialist state of his dream, had been Nehru's ideal for many years, certainly since 1927. And the socialist pattern of society, which he envisaged, should be achieved not by coercion but by consent, by a process of free discussion—in short that it should be planning by persuasion, for the people and by the people. These democratic processes Indian government, particularly under his leadership, has scrupulously observed in initiating the Five-Year Plans whose ideal of a 'welfare state' is enshrined among the objectives of the Indian Constitution.

    2. As a lover of socialism and with a strong desire to build India of his dreams on a socialistic basis, Nehru had always pleaded for the industrialization of Iudia. It is on this point that he differed strongly from Mahatma Gandhi. While his master laid emphasis on a simple life according to nature, his disciple (Nehru) was all for raising the standard of living of the people, and providing them with the amenities of modern civilization. "Present-day civilization is full of evils but it is also full of good ; and it has the capacity in it to rid itself of these evils. To destroy it root and branch is to remove that capacity from it and to revert to a dull, sunless and miserable existence. We cannot stop the river of change or cut ourselves adrift from it, and psychologically we who have eaten of the apple of Eden cannot forget the taste and go back to primitiveness.",*! Hence it is that he had an abounding faith in industrialization being the surest means for the rapid progress and prosperity of the people and for building a welfare state in India. But he did not want to let machinery displace human labour to its detriment and risk the increase of unemployment. "Our economic programme must be based on a human outlook," he declared in his Presidential Address at the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress m 1929, "and must not sacrifice men to money. If an industry cannot be run without starving its workers, the industry must close down."" To implement these ideas he had embarked, as Chairman of the Planning Commission, on the complete industrialization of India in the course of time. There have been doubts expressed about the success of the Five-Year Plans so far, but the schemes envisaged in these bear testimony to his desire to harness the latest scientific and technical knowledge to build a welfare state in India. Policy of Peaceful Co-existence

      1. Letter to Subhas Bose on April 3, 1939, A Bunch of Old Letters.

      2. Autobiography, p. 511.

      3. India and the World, p. 30.

      It was in tune with his synthetic approach to democracy and


    2. 155

    1. socialism at home that Nehru had chosen the policy of muiuai under­standing and peaceful co-existence to reduce the world tension. The Punch Sheel approach of peaceful co-existence and non-interference between states, religions or ideologies, which requires a change of mind and heart to be realistic and fruitful, is most suited to present times when nuclear weapons have more or less outlawed the other solution of war and the other military approach. So India, through Panch Sheel, has something like a solution to offer for the troubles, passions and conflicts some powers are involved in, Nehru was quite definite about the soundness of such a peaceful and constructive strategy. He often stated : "It would be totally unrealistic to suggest that India possesses some magic or mantra to end these evils, but it is our responsibility as members of the human family to advocate a course of action which might lessen international tensions and ultimately remove the sources and causes of conflicts."38 He further stated thitt we could not escape certain responsibilities of an inter­national nature, and we should try to discharge them to the best of our ability. In his opinion, this approach and philosophy which we have inherited from Asoka, Gandhi and other great rulers and thinkers the philosophy of live and let live, of non-violence, toleration and co-existence, could provide the only practical solution to the problem of these times.

    2. Panch Sheel is not so much a course of action as a new mental approach, not any kind of military cr 'cold war' approach, but a peaceful approach, followed by politiral and economic policies in tune with it. "In our opinion." he remarked, "the Panch Sheel, or Five Foundations of Peaceful Co-existence, offers the correct approach." Thus, Nehru strongly pleaded in favour of Panch Sheel, a policy of co-operation and co-existence, not only for reducing international tension, but also for solving many Indian problems. Without such an attitude of goodwill and co-operation, according to him, democracy or socialism cannot be established or made safe anywhere in the world. That is why Nehru insisted on a policy of constructive co-opera­tion and peaceful co-existence both for India and the outside world.

      1. 2S Quoted from The Mind of Mr. Nehru by R. K. Karanjia.

      Nehru had made a constant effort, since he had come to power, to seek peaceful solutions for international disputes. He was predis­posed by nature, training and reflection to these courses, but regard­ed them also as being imposed upon him by the legacy of Gandhi. He was no saint—far from it—and he was liable to lose his temper as early as the next one. He had resentments and fiery impulses, like everybody else. But he saw no health, progress or advantage for India in abandoning the course laid down by Gandhi, which he defined as'the pursuit of peace—when possible.' If I am permitted to put my personal opinion, it is that Nehru knew, better than most statesmen, what was possible.

    1. 156


    1. In the realm of thought Nehru had always been a lonely traveller seeking answers to a myriad of problems, answers that seemed to elude his grasp. To his keen and receptive mind almost all the ideological currents of the past half-century appealed at various stages in his growth to intellectual maturity : first in time was classical liberalism with its emphasis on individual rights ; then at Cambridge, he was drawn to Fabian Socialism ; thereafter, he was influenced by the Gandhian stress on the purity of means and the message of non­violence ; and in the late 'twenties and 'thirties by Marxist theory and the gospel of a classless society. He was also attracted to the ethical norms of Western humanism, and later, during his long war-time imprisonment, to the precepts of the Vedanta, the ancient system of Hindu philosophy, but stripped of its purely mataphysical and religi­ous beliefs. Underlying all was a passionate devotion to the ideas, of nationalism and racial equality. None of these dominated his out­look ; all of them influenced his thought. Indeed, the key to his thinking was a perennial scepticism about all claims to absolute truth and virtue.

    2. Fragments of a World Outlook

    3. Scattered throughout his voluminous writings are fragments of a world outlook, each reflecting the primacy of one of these strands at a given point in time. '■ Nowhere is there a systematic effort to inte­grate them into a consistent personal and political philosophy—for Nehru was an eclectic in intellectual matters. Nevertheless, he did set down his mature reflection in his Discovery of India. These merit special attention, perhaps, because as late as 1956," a dozen years after they were penned, Nehru termed them his most considered thoughts on 'Life's Philosophy'.

    4. Nehru, who died suddenly of a heart attack on the 27th May, 1964, was one of the greatest figures of our generation, an outstand­ing statesman whose services to the cause of human freedom are unforgettable. As a fighter for Indian freedom he was illustrious, as a maker of modern India his services were unparalleled. And his fearless pursuit of a world free from war won him not only the devotion of his own people, but also the admiration of the peoples of the entire world.

    5. His steadfast loyalty to certain fundamental principles of liberal­ism gave direction to our thought and life. We can understand the endless surprises of his attitudes and actions ; all these fall into their place if we remember his faith in democracy and freedom.

      1. 29 Expressed to Michael Brecher in New Delhi on June 13, 1956.

      In short, Nehru shaped the history of his own time. He was more than a great man ; he was a nation in himself. A simple epitaph for such a man would be : He mastered history ; he wrote history ; he made history.

    6. 14

      1. As a Disciple of Gandhi

      2. Acharya Vinoba, as he is known to millions, was a trusted and faithful disciple of the late Mahatma Gandhi. He even looked somewhat like Gandhi, except for a grey beard and frowsy dark hair. He had the same emaciated body, wore the same sort of bifocal glasses, spoke in the same calm, soft voice, with kindly, humour. One of the most learned figures in India, he knew well Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Telugu, Kanarese, Malayalam and English, and this array of languages served him well on his travels through polyglot India. It was not for his learning, however, that India's millions had given their hearts to Vinoba Bhave. They had done that because he had brought them a new hope.

      3. Vinoba Bhave was born on September 11, 1895 to a Brahmana family in Gangoda, a village in Western India. His given name was Vinayak, but Gandhi changed it to Vinoba in later years, and the disciple accepted it as his name. At ten, the boy began his career of holy name : he made a resolution of lifelong celibacy, gave up sweets and started going barefoot. Gandhi, who in young man­hood was a lawyer and a comfortably married mau, admired Vinoba's untarnished virginity. The Mahatma frequently said that his only regret in life was that he had known the delights of sex.

      4. At 20, Bhave was shipped off to study at Bombay, but he went instead to Bengal. Apparently (he was reticent about his early life) he joined the nationalist movement in Bengal, eating at public kitchens. He studied Sanskrit at Benaras, and became deeply immersed in Hindu theology. He first saw Gandhi in 1916. Being too shy to approach the Mahatma, Bhave wrote a letter instead, and Gandhi invited him to join the ashram at Sabarmati. When Gandhi learned that his new follower had not written to his family for several years, he sat down himself and wrote to Bhave's father : "Your Vinoba is with me. His spiritual attainments are such as

      ACHARYA ViNOBA BHAVE (I 895-1 982)

    1. 158

    2. great political thinkers

    1. the Mahatma said that this was the day Vinoba had promised to return. Vinoba was back before nightfall.

    2. In 1932, Bhave suffered his first arrest for taking part in Gandhi's civil disobedience movement. Thereafter he spent several more terms in British jail, serving a total of about two years. After India won her nationhood, through the bloody communal riots between Hindus and Muslims and through Gandhi's death, Bhave remained in obscurity, except for occasional newspaper articles carrying his strictures against money. To Bhave, money "tells lies and is like a loafing tramp." For a medium of exchange he favoured scrip, showing the number of hours a person had worked to earn it. In his post-prayer speech once Vinoba remarked at Rajghat, Delhi, that village economy should be based on "labour, after money was eliminated. Some people imagined he wanted to go back to the old barter system. That was not his plan at all. He was not against currency. Actually, he preferred paper currency to coinage. But the currency he wanted was of labour. It should not be printed at Nasik at the behest of some ruler. It should be a currency adopted by the villagers themselves for their own use. In this currency there should be no question of any credit."21

    3. For a number of years, Vinoba kept himself engaged in a great experiment at his ashram at Paramdham, Paunar, for reducing the use of money as far as possible. According to him, money as the sole medium of exchange, has done greater mischief and havoc in the world than anything else. He remained engrossed, along with his few companions, in the task of adding to the production of land with the simplest of implements, not depending even on bullocks for tilling the land. He wanted to see what the extreme form of manual labour could achieve in agriculture in the present circumstances, where pumps, machines, and tractors were considered to be the most up-to-date and scientific implements of agriculture.

    4. The thesis which he propounded at Shivarampalli whenever he found an opportunity to do it, was the sacredness of labour and the new orientation of the whole constructive programme through it. The purity derived from simple manual labour and revaluation of all our values in the present civilized world through this value is, according to Acharya Vinoba, the panacea for all our ills and diffi­culties. If we eliminate money currency and take to labour with a new faith, fervour and piety, the condition of the world would be revolutionized. The need of the hour is production and greater production with this new ideal. Vinoba repeatedly pointed out that if we utilized to the fullest extent our hands with the barest and simplest of instruments at our command, our needs would be more than satisfied. Non-exploitation, decentralized society, simplicity.

    5. J ffarijarr, 29 th December, 1951.

    1. acharya vinoba bhave

    2. 159

    1. beauty of life and economic equality will be necessarily achieved if we learn to look at manual labour from this new point of view.

    2. If we look at Gandhi's programme for productive labour, we will understand that it was not merely for producing khaddar that Gandhi laid the greatest stress upon spinning. Of course, spinning would produce khaddar ; but the stress was on the revolution in­volved in the insistence on productive work. He placed before the nation a type of physical work which, besides producing wealth, was such as could be done by the aged and the young alike. Produc­tive labour is not a thing from which anyone, who can at all work, should claim an exception. All those who take a share in the con­sumption of goods, must also take a share in their production. A judge or a teacher may not say that he is rendering some other service to society. For, he does not live on books and records alone but also on food, and needs cloth like all other beings. He must, therefore, share directly in their production.

    3. But unfortunately the Congress could not understand Gandhi and attached more importance to the payment of four annas than to yarn. It made the usual confusion between wealth and money. It was not realized that payment in the shape of hand-spun yarn was oayment through production of new wealth, which the payment in .he shape of money was not. Money, we have plenty of, at present; but wealth, which indicates prosperity, has diminished. If we give prestige to money, the prestige of labour is necessarily reduced. Under Gandhi's scheme, a person giving a lakh of rupees to the Cong­ress would have been considered its donor, but not a member entitled to vote. The contributor of hand-spun yarn would have become the voter. It was a revolutionary idea, which the Congress failed to understand.

    4. Vinoba had accepted this Sanodaya ideal of his guru, Gandhi, and practised it fully in life. He pointed out that in a civilized society the first necessity of man was not so much food as cloth. You can go about anywhere in the world without feeling ashamed even if you have remained hungry for some days. But modern civilized society does not allow you to move about naked even in all the parts of your house, and hence even though it may not be possible for every man to grow his own food, he should produce at least his own cloth ; and fortunately this is much simple- and more within one's own power than the production of food. Besides, on the moral plane, khadi is particularly the emblem of a peaceful and non-violent order. It is suggestive of industriousness, bread, labour, non-ex­ploitation and self-expression.

    5. Even more than Pandit Nehru, Vinoba wore the mantle of Gandhi, for he was above all the other disciples whom Gandhi loved. They first met shortly after Gandhi's return from South Africa, when Vinoba was a young student with contradictory desires to be a

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